jump to navigation

Belfast, Boston, Bristol : Ireland and the African slave trade – Third Sarah Lundberg Summer School, this Saturday June 20, 2018

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

On Saturday the 23rd June the East Wall History Group & the Alternative Visions Oral History Group will host the third Sarah Lundberg Summer School. Each year the event is held in honour of our friend and colleague Sarah Lundberg, an Archivist, Historian and publisher who tragically passed away four years ago.

The Transatlantic slave trade was responsible for the forced removal and enslavement of somewhere between 12 to 15 million Africans. The majority of these were transported to the Americas and the Caribbean. Sold into inhumane and brutal bondage, many would also die due to the horrific conditions of the voyages. All the major European countries were involved at some stage, but Britain would emerge as the largest slave trading nation in the world. Despite the great wealth and prosperity generated, a powerful abolition movement emerged and consistently challenged the trade. While Ireland was part of the United Kingdom at this time, our main ports at Belfast and Dublin did not significantly engage with the trade.

This year, the Sarah Lundberg Summer School will look at Ireland and the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. In a wide range of talks , we will look at how slavery literally helped shape the United States, how Irish Radicals rejected the trade , how a leading abolitionist toured Ireland & found common cause with people here and we will also hear how in Bristol locals are still challenging the slave trading legacy of one of the city’s founding fathers.

“Compromising Democracy to Build a Nation: America’s Path to Civil War” –

The period from 1800 up to 1861, when the American Civil War began, was characterized by a series of actions and reactions regarding the expansion of slavery, which redefined the idea of American freedom in the process.Each time the country physically expanded, the issue of slavery had to be addressed: Was it going to be allowed in a territory? Was a new state going to enter the union as a slave state or a free state?As these issues and others were addressed and compromised on, there was a reaction from those who favoured slavery – the Slave Power – and from those who didn’t –Abolitionists. These actions and reactions continued until finally, America reached a point at which compromise was no longer possible, splitting the nation in two in 1861.

(Speaker: Cecelia Hartsell)

‘Frederick Douglass in Ireland: ‘The Black O’Connell”. –

In 1845, the escaped slave, author and abolitionist Frederick Douglass arrived in Ireland as part of a lecture tour to promote the anti slavery movement. He travelled a country which was on the brink of famine and the Great Hunger, and shocked listeners with his graphic descriptions of torture and mistreatment of African slaves in America. He was inspired by, and also inspired ‘the Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell, and was impressed with how his own message was received, but equally shocked by the terrible poverty he witnessed here.

(Speaker: Laurence Fenton)

“Your humble servant but not yet your slave: Belfast radicals and the slave trade” –

Many port cities in England embraced the slave trade, and the merchant classes of Cities such as Liverpool, London and Manchester enjoyed the prosperity it brought. Though it had a comparable capacity, the Port of Belfast did not follow this path. A centre for Protestant radicals and Republicanism, this was a significant factor in the rejection of the Trans Atlantic slave trade. This talk will explore how Irish radicals responded to the ideals of abolitionism but were also divided on the question of slavery itself, despite their republicanism.

(Speaker: Fergus Whelan)

“Edward Colston – Bristol’s ‘merchant prince’, ‘moral saint’ and slave trader” –

The Countering Colston campaign was launched in Bristol in 2015 to challenge the celebration, commemoration and memorialisation of the city father and slave-trader Edward Colston (1636-1721). Its primary aim was to uncover and popularise the real history of Colston and to expose the contradictions in institutions who continue to defend his dual status as ‘merchant prince’ and ‘moral saint’.

( Speaker: The Bristol Radical History Group)


Cecelia Hartsell is a researcher of American history, specialising in twentieth-century war and society. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and is completing her doctorate in American History at Fordham University in New York City.

Laurence Fenton is a writer and editor living in Cork. He is the author of four history books, including two on Frederick Douglass.

Fergus Whelan is a former officer of the Irish congress of Trade Unions and now a full- time historian with a focus on the history of Irish radicalism, Protestant Dissent and the United Irishmen. His books include “Dissent into Treason: Unitarians, King-killers and the Society of United Irishmen” (2010) and “God Provoking Democrat: The Remarkable Life of Archibald Hamilton Rowan” (2015).

Each year the event is held in honour of our friend and colleague Sarah Lundberg, an Archivist, Historian and publisher who tragically passed away four years ago. Each year she is remembered by a short speech from those who worked with her . This year we are delighted to announce that Rosa Whelan , who was a student in Sarahs creative writing group at Mount Temple Comprehensive school, will share her memories of Sarah.

A light lunch will be provided .

All welcome to this FREE EVENT.



1. FergusD - June 20, 2018

There was a fascinating documentary on U.K. TV (sorry forget the details) by a black historian on the slave trade. It enriched the U.K. middle class. Little old ladies bought slaves, to be used in the West Indies, as an investment for their retirement income. Also vicars bought into it. And it also kick started the U.K. finance sector. When it was abolished by parliament all those investors were compensated, cost equivalent of billions, like the 2008 bank bailouts.


WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2018

Vile, wasn’t it, and strangely the UK only seems to be coming to terms with some aspects of that history.


2. FergusD - June 20, 2018

Yep, not sure how thorough the coming to terms is. Maybe most Brits remember how Britain abolished the transatlantic slave trade ( when American slaves were probably being replaced adequately by their own children) rather than how Britain was so important in starting it.

Details on that TV programme here:



3. GW - June 21, 2018

There’s little doubt that the profits made from the death and displacement of millions of people from Africa was key to the capital basis for early industrialisation.

Britain got there early and this supplied the distributed capital accumulation that financed early industrialisation.

The excellent University College London project Legacies of British Slave-Ownership has thousands of records and maps that detail the transformation of slave profits into industrial, financial and commercial capital.

Less you think Irish owning classes were not involved, browse the map for location of Irish people mentioned in documents.

For instance Celia Blake, of Bachelors Walk:

Daughter of Bryan Blake, an Irish merchant and planter who died in Antigua in 1800, and Lydia Brodie of Antigua. Cecilia Blake, then aged 4, was brought back to Dublin and maintained by Valentine O’Connor senior, her father’s cousin for whom Bryan Blake had acted as agent. Cecilia Blake’s brother Martin (who died c. 1826) litigated successfully to recover the Mount William estate in St Vincent from Valentine O’Connor’s heirs. Lydia Blake returned to Dublin too and remarried in 1803, to Malachy O’Connor, Valentine’s brother (both were sons of Hugh O’Connor of Bachelors Walk Dublin).


4. GW - June 21, 2018

And here on a BBC site we read:

Around 1770, total investments in the domestic British economy stood at £4 million, (or about £500 million in today’s money). This investment included the building of roads and canals, of wharves and harbours, of all new equipment needed by farmers and manufacturers, and of all the new ships sold to merchants in a period of one year.

Around the same time, slave-based planting and commercial profits came to £3.8 million (or about £450 million in contemporary terms). Of course profits were not all reinvested, but they did furnish a convenient pool of resources available for this purpose. British West Indian planting profits can be estimated at £2.5 million in 1770, while trading profits on the West India trade were around £1.3 million, at a time when annual slave trading profits were at least £1 million. Even if not all reinvested the slave-generated profits were large enough to have covered a quarter to a third of Britain’s overall investment needs.

The British economy and its native capitalists are the beneficiaries of “inherited privilege” according to the writer:

… cotton yarn was much more suitable for early industrial processes than wool, and that the price paid for each pound of raw cotton dropped by one half between 1790 and 1820 as an expanding slave population, the new cotton gin and steam transport opened the inland states to cotton cultivation.

While the acres of fertile land were an ‘ecological windfall’, the forced labour of several million enslaved people brought them swiftly into cultivation. As late as 1860, six million slaves toiled in the fields of the American South, Cuba and Brazil, producing vast quantities of cotton, sugar and coffee. The thousands of millions of hours of slave toil helped to underpin the global ascendancy of Victorian Britain.

Overall, enslaved people on the plantations of the Americas made a large and measurable contribution to British prosperity. While the idea of inherited guilt is wrong-headed – we are not responsible for our forebears’ crimes and misdeeds – the idea of inherited privilege is perfectly valid.


5. Dr. X - June 21, 2018

A lot of the data historians of the slave trade rely on today comes from very pointed questions Dan O’Connell asked in parliament when the abolition came, and particularly when the massive compensation to the slave owners was paid out.


6. Joe Mooney - June 21, 2018

There are some short articles and links in the discussion section of the facebook event page , including one on the Irish men compensated for losses due to abolition . https://www.facebook.com/events/365168977322362/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: